[UPDATE: The eHome Affairs online portal is now live. You can read up on how to use it in this article]

The Department of Home Affairs has announced that citizens will be able to begin applying for a smart ID card online through a new Home Affairs portal.

The new portal, scheduled to be opened in the near future was announced at a public unveiling of the first smart ID card pilots, recently launched at Standard Bank and FNB headquarters in the Johannesburg city centre

Back in February this year, president Jacob Zuma announced during his State of the Nation Address that the department would be partnering with a number of local banks to issues citizens with ID cards.

Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba’s spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete explained that the planned goal was to ease the process of applying for your ID. The process, he said, will involve applicants receiving an SMS once they’ve gone through the online portal, notifying them of a time and date of completion of the process. They can then come into a bank branch to finalise their details and collect their new ID.

The online eChannel will begin its pilot phase by the end of this year and is expected to be launched early next year.

The department began running the pilots at Standard Bank on the 5th August and on the 31st July at FNB. Cards are being issued to employees at both banks as part of the pilot phase and so far, hundreds have been issued, with each centre catering to around 45 to 50 people per day.

Gigaba was at the unveiling, doing walk-abouts in both centres, where Home Affairs officials were conducting actual processes. He was also present when FNB CEO, Jacques Cilliers received his own ID card today.

The department said it doesn’t have an exact time frame for opening the process up to the public, but it did say that once it’s satisfied with the system’s operation smooth running, the public can begin applications.

An ID application will cost R140 to process and passport applications are also catered for at the banks and will cost you R400. Both processes take between five and ten working days to be completed, according to Home Affairs officials at the banks.

Nedbank is said to be the next bank to launch smart ID facilities, while the department said partnering with Absa may take a bit longer as the bank’s parent company, Barclays is internationally based.

You will have to be a client of the particular bank you’re applying at as paying for your new ID or passport is strictly done via card speed points.

“This is part of our vision to move away from a cash system and have bank applications done electronically,” said department spokesperson, Thabo Mokgola.

The pilots current operating hours are between 8am and 3:30 Mondays to Fridays, special times have been set aside for those who come to collect their cards and passports between 9:00am –  1:00pm and 1:30pm to 4pm. The centres are closed on weekends and public holidays, but once the pilots are over, the centres will be open during normal Home Affairs operating hours.

Overall, the department has set a goal to have all South African citizens issued with a smart ID by the end of 2019.

If you’re wondering what you’ll have to go through during the application process, you can read all about it, here.